Alkqn: a Gang or a Nation

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In recent years there has been much controversy regarding the ALKQN organization, specifically generated as whether or not it should be considered a gang or an individualized nation/organization. Started in Chicago, Illinois, during the 1940’s by a group of individuals of Hispanic descent, the ALKQN alleged that the formation of the group was an attempt at creating solidarity amongst the Hispanic community that would help in overcoming the prejudices they faced. Members sought to rise above the racism they encountered as immigrants and their creation of an organization,-or in, their own words, the separatist “nation” that they called the ALKQN, was geared toward solving these problems. However, this peaceful purpose back fired on the organizers as the ALKQN quickly gained the reputation of a gang rather than a nation. In the early stages, ALKQN members created a “constitution,” called the “Kings Manifesto/Constitution” (KM/C). This constitution includes the laws, rules, lessons, as well as the internal hierarchy that the “nation” runs and abides by. The term constitution suggests this is a society mirroring U.S. ideology, and has a similar founding moment—that of coming together to contest modes of exploitation and tyranny; however, the term manifesto in turn suggests there are more influences at work here. By looking further at the ALKQN, one can see that it is a highly structured organization which consists of set rules and regulations, that it is made up of individuals with a common belief system and common heritage; this suggests that the ALKQN may in fact be viewed as nation rather than a gang, and furthermore asks us to reconsider how we define the nation state, especially in the age of globalization, as well as what is at stake in labeling a given site of belonging nationhood status. This is important because it can help redefine classifications such as gangs. Law enforcement defines a gang as a group of individuals, juvenile and or adult, who associate on a continuous basis, for an allegiance for a common purpose, and are involved in delinquent or criminal activity. Under this rubric, law enforcement agencies and general society continue to consider the ALKQN organization a gang, and the ALKQN refuses to acknowledge this idea and takes it as an insult to be called a gang. Because the ALKQN is considered to be one of the most structured and largest "gangs" in the United States, it can potentially be regarded as a legitimate nation, and both law enforcement as well as scholars have failed to recognize this. And while some scholars suggest gangs can also be considered legitimate organizations, all scholars have failed to address the definition of a gang and the view of the ALKQN as a legitimate nation. Scholars like Deborah Lamm Wiesel, for example, author of "Contemporary gangs an organization analysis” includes Miller’s definition of a gang as a "self-transformed association of peers, bound together by mutual interest, with identifiable leadership, well-developed lined of authority, and other organizational features, who act in concert to achieve specific purpose or purposes which generally include the conduct of illegal activity and control over a particular territory or type of enterprise” (p 35). In turn, Irving Spergel, author of “Youth Gangs: continuity and change,” distinguishes between gangs and groups, and suggests that groups should be considered gangs “when they maintain a high profile, and engage in serious violence and crimes, and when their primary reason for existence is symbolic or communal rather than economic” (p 260). By inference, Spergel suggests that gangs with economic motivation should be considered as an organization that engages itself with organized crime opposed to a gang. Furthermore, David Brotherton and Luis Barrios authors of “The ALKQN: Street Politics and the transformation of a New York City gang,” argues and classifies street gangs based on several characteristics such as...
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